Leaders – how you communicate may be the most important skill you develop. It will impact your culture, employee engagement, customers – even your suppliers. I want to explain some of the basics of good communication. Here’s the gotcha – many leaders often overlook these fundamental principles and sabotage their own effectiveness!
A good friend shared a story about a woman talking to a divorce attorney:
Attorney: Any grounds?
Woman: 3 ½ acres.
Attorney: No, I mean do you have a grudge?
Woman: No, we don’t have a “garudge”, but we have a carport.
Attorney: What I mean is…Does he beat you up?
Woman: No, I’m usually up earlier than he is.
Attorney: Mrs. Jones, please, I’m trying to find out why you want a divorce!
Woman: Oh! Well, you see… it has gotten to the point where he just doesn’t seem to be able to discuss things with me!
Maintaining good communication between people in a family, with friends, and at work is rooted in mutual understanding and is fundamental to their mutual success.
Fact: Communication requires two or more people, and it requires a sender and one or more receivers (like speaking before a group).
If the sender and receiver don’t reach a mutual understanding, then there has been a misunderstanding. Misunderstanding comes about primarily because people are different.
We have different backgrounds, different perspectives, different motives, and different ways of interpreting words.
And if you understand this and seek feedback in a manner that respects people’s differences, you can avoid many misunderstandings.
According to a study by the American Management Association, “The average executive spends at least 20 percent of the time coping with misunderstandings.”
“It is a luxury to be understood.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
With communication between a sender and a receiver, the following are reasons given why people do not seek mutual understanding:
It takes too much time.
Many times, we feel that our efforts to ensure clear communication take too much time. Also, can you recall instances when you have not sought clarification or feedback because you were concerned about taking too much of an important person’s time?
The receiver doesn’t want to risk being seen as stupid by asking for clarification.
Often, we think we know what someone is trying to communicate to us. But instead of asking clarifying questions, we stay silent and open the door for misunderstanding to occur. Maybe you withdrew from the situation before you had a chance to clearly understand what was being requested. Feedback is a simple matter of good sense, so why should it be considered stupid or insulting?
The sender is worried about the possibility of insulting the receiver by asking for a demonstration that they understood.
However, consider the tradeoffs, such as the potential problems, which can arise from misunderstandings and the subsequent confusion and well-founded embarrassment they may cause.
Insight: Often, it is the sender’s and/or receiver’s “pride” that is the root cause of most misunderstandings. And “pride” is what will keep you there and continue to experience misunderstanding.
Every leader can effectively communicate by observing these three principles.
Start off right
One basic principle for effective communication states that…
“It is the sender’s responsibility to see that the receiver has gotten the message.” – Jim Lundy
As you initiate the process of communication, it’s important to realize that initially, the responsibility lies with you (the sender) to ensure that the receiver heard and understood your message.
Receive and repeat
A good receiver will voluntarily repeat the essence of the sender’s message without being asked to do so. This can be accomplished if the receiver repeats to the sender what the sender has just said or at least the essence of it.
A good sender should ask the receiver to provide feedback or to demonstrate in some definitive way that the message has been understood.
Rather than assuming understanding, the sender should not simply ask, “Did you understand me?” Why? Because the receiver may believe they have understood even though they haven’t.
An effective leader will dedicate themselves to becoming an effective communicator to optimize the organization’s performance.
Everything an effective leader does is based on good communication. And effective communication requires feedback.
True champion communicators make sure they understand what the other person is saying.
If I say something to you and just assume that you have understood me, neither of us can be sure complete understanding has occurred.
If you a) start off right b) receive and repeat and c) deliberately send, you’ll boost the quality of your communication and the effectiveness of your leadership!
Do you communicate effectively? How well do you give feedback? Would you mind sharing your experiences of misunderstandings <here>? Could you share this blog post with a friend or co-worker?